Biking and pilgrimage in the Hamar Region

Take three bicycles, three cheerful women, deep forests and a rain-shrouded day on the pilgrim path. What do you get? Definitely a very special bike ride.

As an enthusiastic long-distance and cross-country biker I've been biking on many strange and secluded paths and trails in Norway, but it would never have occurred to me that the pilgrim path is also accessible by bike. When I was invited to a test tour and had taken a look at the map, I just couldn’t say no to it. It looked like this could be an exciting expedition into the wilderness on routes that weren’t very busy.

Easy start in Eidsvoll

We started optimistic on two wheels in Eidsvoll. The goal was to arrive in Tangen in Hedmark the same day. The tour begins with a long, but slight uphill and we are quickly on track heading north to Tangen on route 117. The asphalt is ideal for cycling, but it would certainly be a bit boring to go on foot here. After only a few kilometers, the pilgrim path signs show us that mark the path show us that we have to hit some small trails in eastward direction. Soon, the path turns into a muddy trail and we have to push our bikes. We're not particularly fast and the clock is ticking. Will we be able to reach Tangen in time?

Idyllic near Fløyta

At the Holtdammen we get back on gravel roads and bike up a long, gentle slope through the narrow Holdtdale towards Fløyta. We notice that we have left the area with a lot of traffic and activity, there are no more buildings in sight and it seems like there is no one except us on tour today, neither on foot, nor by bike or car.

As we arrive at Fløyta, we have a beautiful view over the lake and the meadows around us. Small clouds of mist drift across, and we take a well-deserved lunch break on the idyllic picnic area on the north side of the lake. There is also a large lawn with benches and restrooms.

Rest area at Fløyta Photo: Alex Schøller

Long, narrow trails

Refreshed and with new energy we start heading north. Shortly after Dorrsvangen the map displays that we’ll have to continue on narrow trails. What will await us there? Shortly after, we find ourselves in a dense pine forest on a narrow path between wet roots, ferns, large puddles and heather. Here, it is impossible to bike. It doesn’t bother us much, since it gives us time to take in the magical atmosphere in the forest and the good smells around us. It is raining and we are soaking wet. The tiny streams of the forest are swollen in the rain and have become hasty currents, flowing briskly around us. We wear flat sneakers, but on a day like that we should have chosen hiking boots or rubber boots instead.

Narrow paths at Stange almenning. Here you’ll have to push your bike Photo: Øyvind Wold

South of Lysjøen we come to a beautiful grassy forest path, one of the best ground types for biking and walking. At the same time it stops raining. A short time later we reach the cabin Lysjøhimet, which is always open to give pilgrims and other hikers a nice place to rest. The cottage is simply furnished with a stove, table and benches, reading material and a sleeping area with mattresses. It is a great place to rest, whether you are a pilgrim or not.

On the crossroad at Lysjøen

When we finally arrive at the top of Lysjøen, we have to decide: We started the trip four hours ago and have only biked 17 kilometers. The pilgrim’s path continues through Granerud, Eriksrud, Romsetra and rises almost 500 meters above sea level, east of Badstuberget. That would mean to bike almost a mile off track and uphill. With our bikes, we feel this isn’t really a tempting choice. Instead, we decide to take the alternative route northward from Lysjøen to Nilsberg, Mjøstråkruta (National cycle route number 7).

It turns out that the Mjøstråkk route goes uphill to Spitalweg, but from then on we bike pretty fast on flat forest paths towards Nilsberg. Along the way thousands of just felled pines and spruces are piled up in large stacks and spread their wonderful resinous scent.

The last stage to Tangen

The rest of the trip is easy going – we bike the last long descent to Espa on comfortable paths, some right along the shore of lake Mjøsa. There are many nice sightseeing spots along the path and we bike on a blend of asphalt and gravel. We don’t notice the traffic from E6. After a last climb after Korsødegården we continue on even asphalt to the station in Tangen. We made it!

Always nice to take a nap in the shade after a long trip Photo: Laila Haugen Trøen

We kept the trip light and easy, made breaks when it was necessary and pushed our bikes when we felt like it. We needed six hours to bike those few miles. We arrived in a good mood and in just the right degree of being tired and hungry. As rolling pilgrims we have experienced a tour with stunning nature impressions and the feeling of having done something, a few people have done before us. Even though, the path is only a few kilometers away from the E6, the trip was calm and silent.

For whom is the trip suitable?

The route is 39 kilometers long and has a slope of about 800 meters. Due to the slopes, one might think that the route is very demanding, but we took our time, pushed the bikes when it was needed and arrived safely. Even though, for some of us it was the first trip of the season.  It's probably not a beginner's trip, but it’s not an extreme-trip either.

The tour is suitable for adventurous and average athletic cyclists, who find that loneliness, slope, small trails and uneven ground add a special touch to the trip. Due to the fact that the signing with the pilgrim signs is good you don’t need to be familiar with the region to find your way. It's still smart to bring a map with the marked paths, for example the "Mjøsatråkk» map in scale 1: 100 000. The editors are the Federal Transport Office (Statens veivesenet) together with the Flykeskommunen Akershus, Oppland and Hedmark.

Please note that there are no shops, kiosks and cafes along the route. In any case you should bring a lunch packed and enough liquid. You can buy food and beverages at the Shell gas station in Espa, which would mean a detour of about half a kilometer south of the path along the E6.

Possible extension – The trail towards Hamar

Once you arrive in Tangen there are almost 26 kilometers left to get from Stangen to Hamar. Those are much easier to bike. The path goes mainly on gravel and asphalt northward over Ekeberg, Store Re, Sakslund and Fjetre up into the city center of Hamar.

The path to Stangen Photo: Laila Haugen Trøen

This stage begins with some slight increase through a forest before moving into an easy navigable traditional cultural landscape. Here are some of Eastern Norway’s largest and most beautiful farms located.

Apart from the nice view over lake Mjøsa, you will pass some nice sightseeing spots like the church in Stangen and some beautiful alleys. You can make small detours to some accommodations on beautiful farms. Among others Fokhol, Gillund, Staur and Fjetre.

Attention: We'd like to point out that the whole Gudbrandsdalen path is not suited for bicycling due to the varied terrain one will meet on the trail from Oslo to Trondheim. For every adventurous biker who wants to make a pilgrimage by bike we recommend to use the national bike route number 7 that was exclusively developed by the Department for Transport for this purpose. For more information check out the website on:

http://www.cyclingnorway.no/en/national-cycle-routes/8/

Ekeberg pilgrim hostel Photo: Laila Haugen Trøen
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